Wednesday at Chaucer’s I was digging through the fiction for a Christmas Eve book. Pulled Elizabeth Hardwick’s Sleepless Nights from the shelf when I felt a tap on my shoulder. Startled, I turned to face an older man in a gray sweater, the kind with a ribbed neck, and a salt and pepper beard.
(“Please come to read for us from your new book.”)
I want to let the audience enter the cubicle where the work came from. This is what I’ll tell them:
In a Tel-Aviv writing workshop I became friendly with another aspiring writer who, it turned out, lived two streets away from mine. Proximity and vocation synergized to cement our friendship. We commented – politely—on each other’s work, as well as that of the others in the group. We both were practioners of the soft criticism school, as opposed to some in the group who favored a hard-line approach to stimulate writing improvement.
December sweeps her dead hand around my throat. My capuche swooshes open and I come to life in the morning hour rush. A beggar scratches the furrows between the cobblestones outside the metro station. When I get close to him, the automatic doors open and the warm breath of the subway hits me. He looks up at me, then back down again to the cobblestones.
I walk out on to the escalator, a boy runs past me, then a girl, then another boy. The latter boy shoves the girl when he rushes by her, down the escalator. She yells, but keeps going. Yesterday the fungus to the right was green, but today it’s covered in white foam.
The subway train comes in and I get on. It’s full, so I stand. I can always tell which state the country is in by looking at the adverts. Education, insurances, job seminars and cheap groceries. I’m reminded of what the prime minister said; the lowest unemployment rate in Europe by 2020.
Promises aren’t worth much to the poor. That’s why the adverts look the way they do, and why the beggar scratches the furrows of the cobblestone.